Saturday, November 23, 2013

U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE ANNOUNCES NO FISH HATCHERY CLOSURES THIS YEAR

Lahonton National Fish Hatchery
Lahonton National Fish Hatchery (Photo credit: USFWS Pacific Southwest Region)
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today announced that it does
not intend to close any of the nation’s national fish hatcheries in the
current fiscal year, but warned that closures may be necessary in FY 2015
given fiscal uncertainty and growing operations costs.  The Service
released a report today examining the challenges facing the Service’s
National Fish Hatchery System (NFHS), which will serve as the basis of
discussions with stakeholders on how best to operate the system in a more
sustainable manner while supporting the agency’s highest fish and aquatic
conservation priorities.

“This report sounds the alarm on a hatchery system unable to meet its
mission responsibilities in the current budget climate,” said Service
Director Dan Ashe.  “In the coming months through the 2015 budget process,
I have directed the Service to work with all of our partners to determine
whether the options identified in the report, or others, are necessary and
appropriate to put the system on a more sustainable financial footing.”

Director Ashe added that the agency intends to take immediate actions to
prevent imminent closures, but noted that additional actions may be
necessary to address long-term funding shortfalls.

“We are putting a Band-Aid on the hatchery system.  Unless we can find a
way to cover costs in a more sustainable fashion, the system will
eventually need surgery,” said Ashe.  “The challenges we are facing are not
new; however, we have reached the point where – in the absence of long-term
solutions – we will have no option but to make tough choices to bring
expense in line with actual revenues.”

National fish hatchery operations have been greatly impacted by
sequestration, which reduced the NFHS budget, in the face of increasing
operations costs.  If sequestration continues into FY 2014, the Service
will have lost close to $6 million in appropriations for hatchery
operations funding since FY 2012, while operations costs have continued to
rise.  In response, the Service in the fall of 2012 launched a
comprehensive review of the 70 fish and aquatic species propagation
hatcheries to ensure it will be positioned to address highest priority
aquatic resource needs now and into the future while working within its
budget limitations

The *National Fish Hatchery System: Strategic Hatchery and Workforce
Planning Report* outlines the current propagation programs as well as
problems associated with sustaining operation of the NFHS in its current
configuration, and suggests possible changes to how the system could be
managed under several different scenarios.  The report identifies the
NFHS’s focus on five priorities for fish and aquatic species propagation,
including: recovery of species federally listed as threatened or
endangered; restoration of imperiled aquatic species; tribal trust
responsibilities; other propagation programs for native species; and other
propagation programs for non-native species.

The Service will use the analysis to engage stakeholders in a discussion of
the future of the NFHS.  The Service is also working with the U.S. Corps of
Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, Bonneville Power Administration and
Tennessee Valley Authority and has put in place agreements to provide
reimbursable funds for the operational costs associated with mitigation
fish production on streams and rivers impacted by federal water resources
projects.  Congress supported these steps, in recognition that the Service
can no longer fund the production of fish for mitigation of federal water
resources projects within its current budget.

The report can be found at:
http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2013/pdf/NFHSReviewCoverPageandReport.pdf

The appendices can be found at:
http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2013/pdf/NFHSReportAppendices.pdf